Learning a new language comes effortlessly for babies, after all, it’s a very natural process that happens gradually. Children who grow up in bilingual homes can pick up two languages easily, but learning English for babies as a foreign language can also be a simple process!
All babies have the innate ability to learn any language naturally. As they grow up, they get more used to the phonemes that belong to their native tongue, which they use more frequently. But, with the right tools, they can also pick up a new language easily.
How can a baby start learning English?
Babies have great phonemic awareness. This means that they can easily distinguish and learn the different sounds that compose a language. Parents can take advantage of these learning skills to teach English as a second or foreign language.
First, babies get used to the sounds that are present in their native tongue. This happens through the day to day activities like feeding time, playtime, and other daily routines, as their family members and caregivers talk and interact with them regularly in this language.
Introducing English to a baby is a matter of repetition and patience. It’s best to gradually incorporate new words and sounds, just like it happens with their first language. The main focus should be oral expression and comprehension and, of course, positive reinforcement.
English Learning Milestones for Babies
Since babies go through many different cognitive stages and changes in their firsts months of age, it’s important to make sure to know these various learning stages in order to make sure to pick the best activities to learn English during infancy.
Learning milestones from 0 to 6 months of age
Even though at birth they can’t recognize words, babies respond to a language’s rhythm through stress, pacing, and pitch. These three important parts of speech determine how a baby understand what’s being said to them, also if it’s something fun, important, or more serious.
After the third month, babies can distinguish between language sounds and noises, which is an important step for language acquisition.
Learning milestones from 6 to 12 months of age
As soon as babies are 6 months of age, they start babbling and cooing, this is the first sign of language learning. At this time, they start to pick up the sounds of the language they hear. If they’re learning two languages, they will be able to pick them both.
At 8 months old, they can recognize groups of sounds and may identify them as words, even if they don’t clearly know what these words mean.
At 12 months old, babies are finally able to match some words to their meanings. This is the first step to build a vocabulary. It’s at this moment that they are more likely to start mimicking the words they hear in a first attempt at talking.
Learning milestones from 12 to 24 months of age
During their first year of age, babies begin speaking their first words. These usually are nouns, even though they are able to distinguish between these and verbs. By then, children are eager to label things they interact with on a daily basis.
Progressively, children recognize even more nouns and verbs in English and also tend to start understanding the basic sentence structure. They incorporate English pronouns to their vocabulary and start using them. And, in most cases, they start to use the words in the correct order.
Best English Learning Activities for Babies
Taking all these milestones and learning stages into consideration, parents can choose the best activities for their little ones to learn English at home. These activities can be:
- Simple Songs in English for Kids, these are great for the younger ones since rhythm is quite helpful when learning English during childhood. Start with simple songs that have lots of repetition and basic vocabulary, such as the Greetings Song: Hello
- Playtime. Simple tools like building blocks, flashcards, and toys can become teaching aids to learn English. During playtime, use these tools and make sure to repeat the names while playing, this way, your little one will start associating the word to the toy they’re using. You can also talk about colors in English or mention the basic shapes. Also, you can select toys that allow your little one to use the senses to learn English.
- Memory Games. You can use your favorite memory cards or even memory games in educational apps, both are great for children to learn new vocabulary and start associating words with the objects they represent.
- English Learning Apps for Children. Educational apps are a great resource for the younger ones to start learning a new language through sound and repetition while also improving their cognitive skills. Make sure to choose apps specially designed for kids that are not only fun and engaging but also safe.
- Stories in English. Reading simple stories in English can be beneficial for babies. Illustrated books are engaging visually and easy enough for them to try to follow the story without a problem. Plus, using books during childhood is a healthy way to nurture reading from a young age.
- Videos in English. Children tend to learn a lot visually, so, watching videos in English can be a great tool for their learning path. Choose simple videos oriented towards learning nouns and verbs, these will help build a better vocabulary for when they’re older.
Finally, it’s important to remember that not all children develop their language skills at the same pace, some may take a few months more to start speaking their first words, while others are more fluent earlier.
The most important thing to keep in mind when your child is learning English is to make it fun and playful, and also be involved in the learning process, this is key to help them acquire the language naturally and effectively.